Related Articles: Music, All

Cat Power - Jukebox

Released on Matador Records, 1/22/08

In a 2006 New York Times article Chan Marshal, aka Cat Power, said, "My favorite things in the world are cookin', kids and animals and falling in love, but you don't get to do that all the time." The indie singer/songwriter phenom has been spending more time in the recording studio than in the kitchen as her much anticipated eighth album, Jukebox is set for release on January 22nd by Matador Records.

Jukebox, Marshall's second album-length collection of re-cast covers, is as satisfying and enjoyable as the original songs, but perhaps not as lush and emotionally treacherous as Cat Power's own originals, although she does cover herself in "Metal Heart".

Cat Power has a natural talent not to simply cover a song, but to transform and re-sculpt a tune with minimalist treatment, leaving room for her own reflections. With her band Dirty Delta Blues (including Dirty Three drummer Jim White and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion guitarist Judah Bauer), Marshal departs from the original melodies, fearlessly bringing forth undressed, simple compositions haunted by her harrowing soul. It is the intensity of her smokey voice with few trimmings that makes her music so intimate and striking.

Hank Williams' "Ramblin' Man" becomes "Ramblin (Wo)man", while James Brown's "Lost Someone" throbs and smolders slower and thus breaks your heart with a little more soreness. Among others, the compilation includes greats like Jonie Mitchell's "Blue", Bob Dylan's "I Believe in You", and Billie Holliday's "Don't Explain", all poignant versions that remain reverent and respectful to her inspiration while allowing a shade of Cat Power color to wash through.

On a recent venture to Urban Outfitters' online store, I was stunned to see Jukebox as the theme of the Spring collection and downloadable from the site. Known not only as a prodigious singer songwriter but also as a train-wreck due to strange stage antics and abandoned concerts, Chan's erratic behavior has left some fans wary. Supposedly, sobriety has reestablished Marshal as much more even-keeled, but still worth watching and hearing.

Letís hope her comeback keeps some of her edge intact and she does not become the next indie personality to become overexposed on iTunes and advertisements. In the meantime I hope she has a chance to retreat to a farm or honeymoon in pursuit of those things she loves.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars